More than 1,700 religious leaders have appealed to the Pentagon to allow religious exemptions for troops from the Biden administration's COVID vaccine mandate.
A letter was submitted by the National Faith Advisory Board to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday with their signatures, requesting the secretary to "immediately" grant religious exemptions from the COVID vaccine for those who are seeking it.
"As faith leaders representing millions of Americans from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds from across the country, we write to express our strong concern about the potential for military members to be stripped of their religious liberties by not being granted an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate," the NFAB wrote in the letter, as reported by Breitbart.
In August, President Joe Biden made it mandatory to get all military servicemen and women to get the COVID vaccine, thereby allowing military service to establish their own deadlines for when the troops will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID. Alarmingly, none of the military services' leaders have allowed for any religious exemptions from the COVID vaccine, despite the requests of thousands of servicemembers.
"We should be rewarding their bravery and the bravery of all our men and women in uniform, by not forcing them to choose between sincere religious convictions and staying in the military," the NFAB urged in their letter. They also cited "current threats" that the U.S. faces, such as the "emboldened Al-Qaeda" and the "rising communist regime in China," which require the U.S.' defense to be as robust as ever.
NFAB argued that "losing some of our military's finest over a vaccine mandate would be a travesty" and that failing to approve religious exemptions to the COVID vaccine will "potentially [risk] our national security."
According to the Religion News Service, the NFAB was founded in September through the support of former President Donald Trump and led by Paula White-Cain, a Florida pastor who was in charge of overseeing the Trump administration's faith office. NFAB's letter was signed by several other evangelical Christian leaders who advised the former Republican president, including Kenneth Copeland Ministries founders Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Texas Prestonwood Baptist Church head Pastor Jack Graham, Gainesville, Georgia's Free Chapel church Pastor Jentezen Franklin, and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Rev. Samuel Rodriguez.
The NFAB letter was also signed by Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed, former Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and conservative commentator Eric Metaxas, a Trump supporter who made headlines in 2020 after he punched an anti-Trump protester and hosted a "Jericho March" in Washington to protest the still-contested presidential election results.
Meanwhile, Secretary Austin this week sent out a memo ordering the National Guard to get vaccinated against COVID or "face loss of pay" and "being marked absent without cause from drills and training," NBC News reported. The mandate affects about 400,000 servicemen and women.
The memo was sent to service secretaries, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of Pentagon personnel and the highest-ranking officer in the National Guard, and outlined how members are required to be fully vaccinated to participate in drills and training. Secretary Austin also ordered the secretaries of the military branches and the Pentagon's personnel chief to implement similar guidelines for their respective branches.